California angler reels in Forrest Wood Cup championship

Kevin Hawk is so dedicated to make it as a professional bass angler that the California native was willing to live in a one-room apartment in Buford with an outdoor shower.

It was the best move of his life.

The Ramona, Calif., native won the Forrest Wood Cup on Sunday on Lake Lanier and the richest payout the sport has to offer. Fishing in his first Cup, the 31-year-old won $600,000; he had entered the event with only $44,000 career winnings.

“Fishing full-time, that’s my goal and now I’ll be able to do that,” said Hawk, who finished the four-day tournament with 20 keeper bass weighing 50 pounds, 14 ounces. “I moved here just so I could be competitive in this tournament.”

Hawk won the tournament even though he incurred a one-pound penalty for bringing in two dead fish on Sunday. Cody Meyer of Grass Valley, Calif., was second with a 48-8 total, Larry Nixon had a 47-3 total for third and Brent Ehrler was fourth at 46-8. Troy Morrow of Toccoa, Ga., was fifth at 41-13.

Hawk moved to the Shoal Creek area in Buford in November after qualifying for the high-dollar tournament so he could school himself on catching Lanier’s spotted bass.

His apartment was a 30-by-30-foot pool house -- “the pool had a cover on it, so I couldn’t use it,” he said -- that had scant amenities, as well as “scorpions and centipedes.” He took showers outside even in the middle of the winter.

“It was a small price to pay,” said Hawk, who plans to move soon to Lake Guntersville, Ala. “My No. 1 goal is to bass fish [professionally]. I’ll do what it takes to make that happen.”

The final six anglers fished Sunday, including Cup newcomer Morrow, who had a large hometown cheering section among the capacity weigh-in crowd at the Gwinnett Arena. Morrow caught only three fish weighing 6-12 Sunday, but said he wasn’t disappointed. “Of course, you want to win it, but it’s OK. My goal was to make the top six,” he said.

Thanks to famed billionaire T. Boone Pickens, Hawk’s final paycheck was $100,000 more than originally offered. Prior to the final weigh-in, FLW Outdoors announced that Pickens, well known for his support of Oklahoma State University athletics, had agreed to become a partner, and Pickens said he’d add more money to the pot.

Sunday’s crowd of more than 10,000 concluded a week that was considered a success by FLW Outdoors and Go Fish Georgia officials. FLW Outdoors reported that 58,286 people attended the tournament at the Laurel Park boat ramp, and the weigh-in and Expo products show at the Gwinnett Center.

FLW Outdoors CEO and President Charlie Evans said the Forrest Wood Cup, drawn to Georgia by Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Go Fish Georgia Initiative, would return.

“It’s almost perfect here,” Evans said. “Now it’s a question of working out dates and details.”


Forrest Wood Cup

At Lake Lanier

Final results

Kevin Hawk, Ramona, Calif. (20 fish/50 pounds, 14 ounces), $600,000

Cody Meyer, Grass Valley, Calif. (20/48-8), $100,000

Larry Nixon, Bee Branch, Ark. (19/47-3), $85,000

Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif. (19/46-8), $60,000

Troy Morrow, Toccoa, Ga. (18/41-13), $50,000

Ronald Hobbs, Orting, Wash. (15/35-3), $45,000